Senator Dick Durbin, the incoming chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley unveiled new legislation that seeks to end federal capital punishment. If passed, all federal inmates on death row would face resentencing.
As the Democratic Party prepares to gain control of Congress, they will be working to undo many of President Donald Trump’s controversial policies. Former Attorney General William Barr resumed federal executions under the Trump administration after they had been halted for nearly two decades. In only seven months, the federal government performed 13 executions. This includes the execution of a black man, Dustin Higgs, which took place on January 15th, Martin Luther King Jrs birthday. The acts set a record as the most federal executions authorized by an administration in over 100 years.
“Here we are in the closing hours of the Trump administration when they are in a mad dash to give pardons for federal crimes committed by their friends, and an equally mad dash to try to execute these people who have been on death row for years, if not decades. That is just unconscionable,” said Durbin.
President-elect Joe Biden has openly supported ending federal executions. He plans to work with Congress to abolish capital punishment.
Pressley introduced the legislation late last year and has been in close communication with the Biden-Harris team.“I’m calling on [Biden] to use that full authority with the stroke of a pen to halt all federal executions and save lives. He should also require the Department of Justice to no longer seek the death penalty for future cases, and permanently dismantle the Terre Haute facility where those federal executions take place,” Pressley said.
This legislation is crucial. If passed, it will abolish all federal executions and prevent all future presidents from reinstating them.